Tsunami Museum: A Symbol of Acehnese Strength

If you visit Banda Aceh, don’t miss to come to a grand monumental building shaped like a cruise ship stands proudly in the province capital. The tsunami museum built to represent a symbol of the strength of Acehnese in surviving the December 26, 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami followed a 9.3-magnitude undersea earthquake. The building is also to tribute Aceh traditional culture.

The 2,500-square-meter museum, which stands on a 10,000-square-meter plot southeast of Blang Padang field built by the concept as “Rumoh Aceh [traditional Aceh house] as Escape Hill.” A traditional Aceh house on stilts is a symbol of local wisdom, and has been incorporated into the museum’s design.

If you look at the walls of the museum, you will see thousands of people doing the Saman Dance. The traditional dance from Gayo Lues district in the highland region of Aceh has been recognized as one of world’s heritages by UNESCO. The philosophy behind it is that the Acehnese are disciplined and orderly people. The saman dance is another symbol of the strength of Acehnese who have the nature of cooperation.

The contours of three-story building show the designer’s efforts to delve into the Acehnese culture and psyche. A chamber in the museum is shaped like a tapering chimney with the Arabic inscription for “Allah” written on its top. This reflects the religious nature of Acehnese people, who believe that God holds supreme might and power over all things.

The museum’s first floor is an open space, as is traditional in an Acehnese house. In addition to its use as a public space, the area allows floodwater and tidal waves to run unencumbered.

The building’s exterior expresses the cultural diversity of Aceh through its use of transparent, decorative ornaments. The interior takes the visitors through a “tunnel of sorrow” that invites contemplation of the disaster.

The museum also has an escape hill, a park on a knoll that people can run to in the event of a flood or tsunami. It also features a hill of light, in addition to a garden with space where people can lay flowers. Another memorial room is located underground, complete with an exhibition hall.

The chimney wall will be inscribed with the names of tsunami victims. But until now only a thousands names placed on the wall as the fact that more than 170.000 Acehnese killed in the catastrophe. It’s unclear why the government has not recorded the tsunami victims’ names yet.

More than just a place to remember the martyrs who died in the tsunami, the museum will serve to educate people and can serve as a refuge in the event of another tsunami. There are many displays on the building telling about tsunami and earthquake such as pictures, anti-quake’s houses and many other information related to the disaster. There is also a 4D theater that shows a tsunami animated cinema for the visitors.

The inner room features a two-meter-wide alley with waterfalls on both sides to simulate a tsunami. The museum also sets aside a room where visiting families can pray. Some conference room been made available for community meetings and exhibition.

The museum’s memorial hall is dimly lit in preparation for displays of electronic data. The building’s oval roof is covered with grass where visitors can sit and relax.Just to the south of museum lies the graves of hundreds of Dutch soldiers, called Kerkhof or Peucut, who died in battles against Aceh’s armies during 17th century. To the northeast lies Taman Sari, a city park where residents often go for picnics.

Some 150 meters away to the east lies an urban forest park called Taman Putroe Pahang. In the 16th century, the place used to be the bathing house of Puteri Pahang, an Aceh queen from Pahang monarchy in the days of a respectful well-known Sultan Iskandar Muda.

According to Aceh governmental officials, the initial idea [for building the museum] came from looking at memorials in other countries that once had disaster. There was no memorial for many people who fell victim to the tsunami, so that why the museum built.

Victims of the Kobe earthquake in Japan have their own memorial. Pearl Harbor in US has also a museum. So, Indonesian government built a memorial for the tsunami victims in Aceh to show the symbol of its people’s strength.

If you come to Banda Aceh, spend some hours to explore the museum and find its unique architecture of Acehnese traditional culture and many education displays of the disaster inside the building. When you are in the building, you can fell how the tsunami disaster experienced by the people of Aceh.[NH]